Perhaps the biggest complaint startup founders and other business owners tell me they have about conferences and trade shows is that they don't have much of an impact on their bottom line. In other words, conferences often don't move the needle for a company's sales or reputation. Making a successful impact for your company at these events takes a lot of work. You'll have a tough time building interest in your product or service with a sub-par presentation.
One of the best ways to be memorable, aside from having an idea that captures the attention and imagination of many people, is to blow away your audience with how you present yourself. This may sound like a difficult job, but all it really involves is a little extra preparation and planning. Here are a few simple tricks that will help you wow the crowd.
1) Look the Part
You've heard the saying, dress to impress. Well it definitely holds true during any sort of presentation or booth presence at a trade show. You are representing your company, so it is important that you dress well and in a way that will cast a good image of your company.
Dressing well doesn't always mean that you have to be in a complete suit and tie. Just look sharp and professional. For example, if your company or product has a target audience of young kids, then you would probably want to wear something more approachable than a suit. The thing to remember is that your look is your first impression on your audience, so you want it to be a good one that is on brand.
2) Plan Your Delivery
Planning your delivery is one of the most important things you can do to have a successful conference or trade show presentation. Try to avoid reading straight off of note cards or teleprompter; it is obvious and distracting to the audience and comes off a little lazy.
Memorizing what you plan to say is definitely difficult, though it can certainly be impressive if you can pull it off. Unfortunately, it can also come off very robotic and awkward. The best option is to have a defined set of examples you want to relay to your audience--whether it be to a board room, conference center or passersby at a trade show. Make your language clear and concise, and make it memorable because some of the folks you're trying to impress are hearing dozens of pitches that day on the trade show floor.
3) Develop a Stage Presence
If you have stage fright or a fear of public speaking, you will need to find a way to cope. Practicing your pitch in front of others is best. Practicing public speaking whenever you can in general is the best way to gain confidence with it and develop more talent with it. It may not eliminate the fear completely, but it will help you learn how to work through it so that it doesn't show.
Presence also means that you need to be likable and relatable. Think of the approach taken by celebrities like musicians or anyone who performs live. They don't just stand there and sing, they get the audience involved and excited by being dynamic and engaging. Sometimes your best hook is a smile and a welcoming gesture.
4) Avoid Pitching Your Company
Try to avoid doing the actual sales pitch for your company or your product; grow it instead. Don't try to convince your audience that they need whatever service you're providing. Instead you should show them.
People respond better when deciding for themselves that they need something, and are therefore more likely to come to you for help filling that need. Let your service, product and hook lead the conversation--no hard selling!
5) Plan Meetings Ahead
It's always a good idea to set up meetings and events weeks ahead of time so you're not scrambling at the last minute. You don't want to be forced to come up with backup plans just to get some face time.
There's often nothing more important to the attendees at a trade show than planning out your calendar and including them in your schedule. It shows you value their time and their business.
6) Don't Give Away Something Unremarkable
If you're giving away advertising memorabilia, make it unique and something of actual value. Your free corporate pen will just end up in the bottom of a bag or lost in a hotel room.
Going bigger, such as with a bag or t-shirt, will help you here because people will be more likely to remember your company afterwards. The investment may be more than previous years, but the payoff in the long run could greatly outweigh the investment.